16 April 2011

Indonesia's Love Affair With Antibiotics and Drug Treatments...

There is little doubt that Indonesian doctors on the whole over-prescribe antibiotics. It is unfair to generalise because quite simply there are always exceptions to the rule. However, even if a doctor does not prescribe a course of antibiotics, then most people will self-prescribe and go to any one of the myriad of road-side drug vending stalls.

The overuse of antibiotics, and other drugs, is not without risks as the nasty things that make us sick also have an ability to build up immunity to the drugs designed to kill them. This means that Indonesia is without a doubt on the road towards creating a whole swathe of drug-resistant bacteria and viruses. Simply, the trend seems to be towards over-prescribing and poly-pharmacy no matter what the illness is. Generally, doctors or patients prescribe antibiotic and drug cocktails in an attempt to get well.

Interestingly, some Indonesian doctors have recognised the trend and are intent on arresting the malaise that is poor diagnosis and subsequent poor treatment options being prescribed. But, it would appear that changing the culture is an uphill battle if the data collected by the Foundation for Concerned Parents is anything to go by.

For example, in 2008 the Foundation found that antibiotics were prescribed in more than 78% of cases of respiratory or stomach illness. This is an increase on the slightly more than 54% in 2006. Perhaps more interestingly is the trend of prescribing certain brands of drugs in preference to cheaper locally produced generic medicines. The suggestion, albeit implied, seems to be that doctors might be being encouraged to prescribe certain drug regimes at every opportunity they get to do so. One would hope that doctors were getting a little more for their efforts than just the odd free pen or mouse pad.

The issue is one that the government is aware of and it is one that the government is keen to address. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recognised that the over-prescribing of certain drug treatments in Indonesia is leaving the Republic susceptible to future outbreaks of super bugs and viruses that are resistant to all standard treatment options. Therefore, the WHO and the government have commenced a study to look at what can be done to turn back the tide.